Whether you are searching for your first job or your next job, first impressions are important. In many cases, your resume, cover letter, and interview will be the first opportunities you have to impress a potential employer. Being prepared is critical to success.
Resumes are marketing documents that should deliver a targeted message to your audience. Be prepared to tailor your resumes to prominently highlight skills or past experiences that are relevant to the job or position. The “one size fits all” approach is not effective. If your skills can be applied to multiple job types (examples: business analyst or project manager), consider creating two or three versions of your resume and cover letter so you can easily customize them.
Hiring managers and recruiters read many resumes and appreciate clean, concise documents that use clear language, proper grammar, and action verbs. Avoid the passive tense whenever possible and always focus on accomplishments rather than listing duties and responsibilities.
Many resume websites, recruiters, and companies utilize databases to store and retrieve candidate resumes. Be sure to include key words that correlate to specific requirements listed on the job description. Keywords can be hard skills, job-specific descriptions, technical expertise, names of products, services, awards, job specific jargon, or types of degrees.
The old adage that "less is more" is good advice when creating a resume. Create or choose simple designs that use a maximum of two fonts and utilize bullet points to highlight achievements and accomplishments. Minimize the use of bold or italic styles and consider using white space as a design element when possible.
Don’t worry so much about the length of your resume and focus on the quality of the content. Good content trumps resume length concerns 90 percent of the time. However, recruiters and hiring managers are busy. Start strong and organize your resume so that the most relevant skills and experience are presented early in the document. In general, students and young professionals with minimal experience should keep resumes brief and concise. It’s fairly normal for more experienced job seekers or graduate students to have a resume that is anywhere from 1-3 pages.
- Contact Info (keep it basic – address, phone, email, LinkedIn)
- Objective Statements - There are no hard and fast rules, but many experts suggest skipping the objective statement unless you have very little work experience or are changing careers. If neither applies to you, it is perfectly acceptable to skip the statement and present work history and experience in a clear and concise manner. If you do include one, be specific.
- Headline - a phrase that highlights your value as a candidate
- Resume profile – a brief summary of your skills and qualifications for the position
- Career summary – lists your key achievements, skills, and experience.
- Publications/Presentations - Use only if relevant and use formal citation.
Cover letters are still a critical part of most offline and online hiring processes. A few things to keep in mind when developing a cover letter:
Simple to read
We are all busy people — both applicants and hiring managers. Make it easy to quickly scan your email. Use bullet points and keep paragraphs to a few sentences.
Share why you are interested in the position and drop in a few details to show that you did your homework. If you can personalize the email with the hiring manager’s name, all the better.
Outline what qualifies you for the job. Mention your current position and the name of the company you work for. Briefly list relevant education or special training, especially if the employer is looking for candidates who have a particular degree or skill set.
Be sure to link to your LinkedIn profile. Do you have an online portfolio with work samples as well? You will make the hiring manager’s job a whole lot easier by supplying the examples of your work.
This is a big one. Choose the resume format that the company prefers... pdf, copy/past into a online form - whatever they request, deliver the resume in that format. Remember that hiring managers cannot see your entire profile on LinkedIn unless you are connected.
Resumes vs. Curricula Vitae
Resumes are required for most career opportunities. They are usually tailored for different positions and offer an overview of your experience and skill set. Curricula Vitae are more commonly used in academia or when applying to work abroad in certain countries. A CV is a detailed biographic summary of educational background, scholarly activities, and employment experience. More info on CVs can be found here.
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Vick Center for Strategic Advising & Career Counseling – A great resource for students and graduate students with information on career assessments, internships, researching careers, graduate school planning, CV and resume tips, interview tips, and other resources.
Simply Hired – salary calculator and career search resource.
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